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Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2013 May;16(5):686-91. doi: 10.1093/icvts/ivt030. Epub 2013 Feb 12.

In patients undergoing video-assisted thoracic surgery for pleurodesis in primary spontaneous pneumothorax, how long should chest drains remain in place prior to safe removal and subsequent discharge from hospital?

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  • 1Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


A best evidence topic in thoracic surgery was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was how long chest drains should be left in place following video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) pleurodesis for primary spontaneous pneumothorax. Altogether, a total of 730 papers were found using the reported search, of which eight represented the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The authors, journal, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes and results of these papers are tabulated. We report that the main determining factor for the length of hospital stay following VATS pleurodesis is chest-drain duration. Providing no postoperative complications occur, and chest X-ray appearances of lung inflation are satisfactory, there is no documented contraindication to removing chest drains as early as 2 days postoperatively, with discharge the following day. Furthermore, leaving chest drains on water seal after a brief period of suction has been shown to benefit in reducing postoperative chest-drain duration and subsequent hospital stay. There is a paucity of literature directly addressing early vs late chest-drain removal protocols in this patient group. Hence, we conclude that, in clinical practice, the decision of when to remove chest drains postoperatively should remain guided empirically towards the individual patient.

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